TEHRAN, Young Journalists Club (YJC) -The political standoff between Madrid and Barcelona will not result in an independent Catalonia, but Madrid could, however, expand the region’s autonomy, Spain's Foreign Minister said after his government sacked the regional authority and ordered snap elections.
“I rule out full independence but not necessarily more autonomy, even if they are now already one of the regions with the highest powers and competencies not only in Spain, but in the world at large,” Alfonso Dastis told the Associated Press (AP).
He emphasized that the snap elections scheduled for December 21 “will be held according to the law. So the results will have to be respected afterward.”
On Friday, the simmering tensions between Madrid and Barcelona boiled over after the government of Carles Puigdemont proclaimed the independence of Catalonia from the rest of Spain, spurred on by the results of the 'Yes' referendum held on October 1.
Madrid responded immediately; invoking Article 155 of the Spanish constitution to take over the powers of the regional government. Spain’s Prime Minister, Mariano Rajoy, then sacked Puigdemont and his government and announced regional elections for 21 December. Madrid also relieved the head of the regional police force (Mossos d’Esquadra) of his duties.
In a televised address Saturday, Puigdemont said Madrid’s decision to suspend the autonomy of the province and appoint Spanish Deputy Prime Minister, Soraya Saenz de Santamaria, as Catalonia’s provisionary head goes against the will of the people.
“It’s very clear that the best form of defending the gains made up until now is democratic opposition to article 155,” Puigdemont said as he pledged to “continue working to build a free country”.
In an interview with AP, Dastis emphasized that Puigdemont is no longer the leader of Catalonia. Spain’s FM added that the former Catalan leader can stand in the regional election, unless he is imprisoned by then for his role in inciting separatism. On Friday, Spanish prosecutors confirmed they would file charges of rebellion against Puigdemont, a crime punishable by up to 30 years in jail.
“I don’t know what kind of judicial activity will happen between now and 21 December,” said Dastis. “If he is not put in jail at that time I think he is not ineligible.” Dastis accused Puigdemont’s government of making “false promises” by saying “the economy would flourish, that everything would be fine and dandy.”